Awards

Alongside celebrating the student graduates of 2020, the 188th Commencement Ceremony also honors the esteemed individuals, alumni, and faculty whose work and service has educated and inspired so many to action and toward creating a better world.

Baldwin Medal

The Baldwin Medal pays tribute to the late Judge Raymond E. Baldwin ’16, the only man to have held the offices of Connecticut governor, U.S. senator, and chief justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court. First awarded September 20, 1981, during the opening convocation of Wesleyan's Sesquicentennial, the Baldwin Medal is the highest honor Wesleyan's alumni body presents for extraordinary service to Wesleyan or for careers and other activities which have contributed significantly to the public good.

  • Rob Rosenthal

    Rob Rosenthal, John Andrus Professor of Sociology, Emeritus, served as Wesleyan’s provost and vice president for Academic Affairs from 2010 to 2013 and director of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life from 2014 to 2017. He returned to serve as interim provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs again from July 2019 through May 2020. He has worked for the past 30 years with community groups in Middletown, Conn., including as one of the founding directors of Wesleyan’s Service-Learning Center and the Center for Community Partnerships. Rosenthal received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and arrived at Wesleyan in 1987. He has written and taught in the areas of housing, homelessness, community research, the politics of decision-making, and the use of music in social movements. He is the author of Homeless in Paradise, co-winner of the Association for Humanist Sociology Book Award (1994–95), and Playing for Change (with Richard Flacks, 2011), and co-editor with Sam Rosenthal of Pete Seeger: In His Own Words (2012).

Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching

Every spring, Wesleyan recognizes outstanding faculty with three Binswanger Prizes for Excellence in Teaching. Made possible by gifts from the family of the late Frank G. Binswanger Sr., Hon. ’85, these prizes underscore Wesleyan’s commitment to its scholar-teachers, who are responsible for the University’s distinctive approach to liberal arts education.

Recommendations are solicited from alumni of the last 10 graduating classes, as well as current juniors, seniors, and graduate students. Recipients are chosen by a selection committee of faculty and alumni.

Due to the unusual circumstances surrounding this year’s Commencement, the Binswanger awards will be presented on a future occasion. The following faculty will be honored for their excellence in teaching:

  • Gloster Aaron

    Gloster Aaron, associate professor of biology, joined the Wesleyan faculty in January 2006. He holds a BA in Neuroscience from Oberlin College and a PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Pennsylvania. Aaron’s lab pursues research projects related to the understanding, prevention, and treatment of epilepsy, using optical and electrophysiological methods of measuring neuronal activity. His research has included testing whether stem cell-derived, GABAergic neurons that are transplanted into adult brains can functionally integrate into hippocampal circuits and provide seizure-preventing inhibition.  In related projects, he is also studying how newly-born neurons develop and are incorporated in adult brain circuits.  With regards to epilepsy, he studies the dynamics of seizures that are functionally connected by the corpus callosum, the main white matter tract connecting the two cerebral cortices of the brain. This project seeks to explain the role GABAergic inhibition plays in the propagation of these seizures between hemispheres. At Wesleyan, Aaron teaches courses in Behavioral Neurobiology; Waves, Brains, and Music; and Neurophysiology, among others. He is the director of WesMaSS, an academic program designed to support students from traditionally underrepresented groups as they pursue studies in mathematics and science.

  • Robyn Autry

    Robyn Autry, associate professor and chair of sociology, has been a member of Wesleyan’s faculty since 2010. She is a writer and critical sociologist with broad interests in racial identity, memory, and blackness. Her academic writing on commemorative practices around racial violence in the United States and South Africa has appeared in several journals, including Visual Studies and Theory & Society. Her public writing has appeared in The Atlantic and Black Perspectives. She is the author of Desegregating the Past: The Public Life of Memory in the United States and South Africa (2017). Her second book, Selfishly Black, is currently under review. She is the recipient of the Andrew W. Mellon Public Humanities Fellowship at the University of Toronto for the 2020-21 academic year. At Wesleyan, she teaches a range of courses including Social Analysis; Race, Fantasy, Fetish; and The Hair Class.

  • Keiji Shinohara

    Keiji Shinohara, artist-in-residence, has taught at Wesleyan since 1995. Born and raised in Osaka, Japan, he studied as an apprentice to the renowned Keiichiro Uesugi in Kyoto for a decade before becoming a Master Printmaker. Shinohara’s natural abstractions are printed on rice paper with water-based inks from woodblocks in the Ukiyo-e style. Shinohara has been a visiting artist at over 100 venues, and has received grants from the Japan Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. His work is featured in many public collections, including the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University, and the Library of Congress. He has given lectures at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Smithsonian Institution, among others. At Wesleyan, he teaches courses including Intro to Sumi-e Painting, Monotype Printmaking, and Alternative Printmaking: Beginning Japanese Woodblock Technique.

Honorary Doctoral Degree

Wesleyan University is proud to present honorary degrees to three remarkable individuals whose work exemplifies inclusive engagement. The recipients were chosen on the basis of their significant contributions to civic life in the United States, including the example they set in bringing new voices into the public sphere and spurring others to productive dialogue and action.